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Why the Good News-Bad News Jobs Report Is a Bust

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The March jobs report is a mixed, somewhat discouraging bag. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't the 250,000 jobs hoped for either.

The pluses: The economy added 37,000 more jobs than we thought in January and February, the mix of new jobs wasn't bad with the crucial construction sector picking up, and employers were asking their people to work more hours -- usually a sign they eventually will need to hire more.  

The minuses: Wages didn't do much. The 192,000 jobs added missed the average forecast of 206,000 and was well short of the 250,000 the most bullish economists had thought was possible.

Some key points to think about, on the plus side.

Construction added 19,000 jobs. The single biggest gap in the recovery remains the tepid pace of construction, especially in housing, now that manufacturing output is back above pre-recession peaks. Construction has now added 151,000 jobs in the last year, putting a dent in the 1.8 million-job deficit between 2006 construction employment and what we have now.

Manufacturing did okay, shedding 1,000 jobs. The plus was that the average work week in factories rose to 42 hours, a sign that hiring pressures are imminent. 

The drain from government employment was only 1,000 jobs because as hiring by state and local governments nearly offset the 9,000 lost federal jobs. Part of the case for stronger growth in mid-2014 is less interference from federal budget cuts, which are smaller this year than in the last two.

The number of discouraged workers fell to 698,000, down 105,000 in the last year and 57,000 from just last month. It's a sign that people are believing in the economy again. Work force participation also ticked up by 0.2 percentage points, to 63.2%, getting back to levels from four months ago.

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